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September 16, 2004

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Oprah's audience is driven to tears of joy


Sept. 14, 2004 12:00 AM

Oprah Winfrey celebrated the première of her 19th season by surprising each of her 276 audience members with a new car.

"We're calling this our wildest dream season, because this year on the Oprah show no dream is too wild, no surprise too impossible to pull off," Winfrey said on the show, which aired Monday.

Winfrey said the audience members were chosen because their friends or family had written about their need for a new car. One woman's son said she drove a car that "looks like she got into a gunfight"; another couple had almost 400,000 miles on their two vehicles.

Making sure the audience was kept in suspense, Winfrey opened the show by calling 11 people onto the stage. She gave each a car - a Pontiac G6.

She then had gift boxes distributed to the rest of the audience and said one of the boxes contained keys to a 12th car. But when everyone opened the boxes, each had a set of keys.

"Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!" Winfrey yelled as she jumped up and down.

The audience screamed, cried and hugged each other - then followed Winfrey out to the parking lot of her Harpo Studios to see their Pontiacs, all decorated with giant red bows.

The cars, which retail for $28,000, were donated by Pontiac.

Stalked by controversy

Catherine Zeta-Jones: trouble magnet?

The actress, whose alleged stalker Dawnette Knight is still navigating the justice system in California, was the target of a failed kidnapping plot south of the border, British tabs report.

According to the reports as relayed by Knight Ridder Newspapers, gunmen tried to force the star's limo off the road and abduct her in Mexico, where she is shooting the Mask of Zorro sequel, Legend of Zorro.

Meanwhile, Mexican authorities deny knowledge of an abduction attempt against Zeta-Jones.

Film producer Lloyd Phillips was quoted in the Mexican press as saying only that there was a small accident in which another vehicle struck the car in which the actress was riding.

Petty Woman

In related news, Catherine Zeta-Jones' Ocean's Twelve co-star, Julia Roberts, has problems of her own.

According to MSN's the Scoop column, Roberts' demands for wardrobe changes and reshoots have driven up production costs for the $85 million caper picture. A source tells the column that Roberts "didn't like the way she looked."

She may not have been wrong.

The source reports that audience members at a recent early screening of the film in Scottsdale thought the Pretty Woman looked pretty awful.

"I heard Julia had morning sickness," the spy says. "She looks it."

Sweet nostalgia

Ruben Studdard celebrated his recent 26th birthday with fried fish, collard greens and a visit from the "candy lady."

Alas, the name isn't a delicious pharmaceutical euphemism.

The party, billed as "Flashback '04" (also not a drug reference, darn Studdard's wholesomeness), got a visit by a hired hostess wearing hair curlers and posing as a candy lady whom Studdard remembered from his neighborhood. She passed out classic candy, including Chick-O-Sticks, B-B-Bats and Fruit Stripe Gum, Studdard publicist Jocelyn Cullman says.

Who invited him?

The guests at Joey Fatone's recent wedding got a shock.

No, not a cash bar.

The London Mirror reports that former 'N Syncer Justin Timberlake, who put the kibosh on his former bandmates' plans for a reunion and is therefore not their favorite person these days, made a surprise appearance when Fatone married longtime love Kelly Baldwin in New York.

"There were some awkward silences," a source reports.

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